[USA-SOUTH KOREA]On the eve of the USA’s friendly against South Korea at StubHub Center (live on ESPN2 and UniMas, 5 p.m. ET), head coach Jurgen Klinsmann met the press shortly before a training session.
There was plenty of praise and positivism, as usual, and genuine energy. Yet Klinsmann clearly has treated these last few weeks of preparation as he does the tough group into which the Americans have been placed: a challenging opportunity.
“Attitude, effort, and commitment have been outstanding,” he said in his evaluations of two mini-camps sandwiched around nearly two weeks in Brazil. “They deserve a huge compliment. Now, obviously we want the players to use that opportunity here tomorrow and show a good game and show where they are right now after this intense three and a half weeks of training. Obviously, we know South Korea already played two games, so they have already two games in their legs. We are really looking forward to it.”
Klinsmann expects South Korea to play its usual game of intensity and high-pressure, and will use the match to gauge several elements of his team’s play and to focus on a few individuals. Not in any order of importance they are:
-- Klinsmann mentioned that 29-year-old Michael Parkhurst, who can play anywhere along the backline, would probably play left back, which is currently the domain of veteran DaMarcus Beasley, who is not in this camp. Is the coach ratcheting up competition for this spot, or is everyone except the Beas a place-holder?
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CENTERBACK PAIRING.Clarence Goodson is certainly in the mix to start in central defense, yet with only a few more games to go before the World Cup, Klinsmann will use every opportunity to test his first-choice pairing:Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler. Little more than a year ago they debuted as a tandem and the coach will watch keenly their cohesion and communication if they get on the field together.
“From a coach’s perspective, you try to kind of see a development of your players, see them kind of grow during a season and maybe a couple of years,” said Klinsmann. “I think Matt and Omar, you see two centerbacks that have matured and become calmer, they’ve become more responsible, they grow into their roles. Both have done really well. They played very strong seasons for their respective club teams and they’ve done well with us when they’ve come into the national team. We are pleased with that.”
MVP MAGEE.Mike Magee played for the U.S. U-17 and U-20 teams, and seemed to be rounding off more than a decade as a solid role player when the Galaxy traded him last May to Chicago in exchange for Robbie Rogers. He’d already scored six goals in 10 games yet few expected him to match that number, much less exceed it, even with two-thirds of the season to go.
Six months later, having rung up 15 goals for the Fire and finished second to Camilo’s league-leading 22, Magee won the MVP award and a callup. He’s not looked out of place. There’s a stack of players ahead of him up top but he played left mid for the Galaxy and can’t be faulted for skill, desire, and guile.
“It was an easy transition because he’s been around the block for a while,” said Klinsmann, tweaking the expression only slightly. “So he was not really nervous about it, he was happy, he was thrilled that he is part of it. He kind of fit right in in the training and the scrimmages that we had. He’s a guy who adjusts easily to his teammates and is part of the group right away. We are happy that we finally had a close look at him and hopefully he gets a chance tomorrow to show this also on a bigger stage.”
JONESING FOR A NEW TEAM.Midfielder Jermaine Joneswasn’t called into camp, but he drew more notice than some of players summoned as weeks passed with fans and journalists awaiting his impending move from German club Schalke. A meniscus tear suffered playing for the USA in the Hexagonal against Jamaica set him back, he rode the bench, and not until Thursday did he land with Turkish club Besiktas.
“Jermaine, I’ve been in contact with him since the transfer window opened up because obviously I knew what was going on there at Schalke,” said Klansmann. "I told him, 'You’ve got to sort that issue, no matter how hard, you’ve got to get back playing, because otherwise you run out of time.’
“He took his time a little bit until almost the last day. But he solved it with the move to Besiktas. It’s a good club, it’s an international team there, a lot of international team players around him and he gets his playing time right away.”
Michael Bradley’s move from Roma to Toronto FC further alters the dynamic in central midfield, though Klinsmann is adamant that pair will only be broken up by dire circumstances. There’s no shortage of candidates to play with those two and/or back them up, and while neither are on hand for Saturday's game, their play has set standards of which Klinsmann approves.
“We are pleased with his move, because that was really, really crucial,” said Klinsmann. “He and Michael Bradley, obviously, that is the heart of our midfield. It’s good to know both are in good spots.”